Miller Grove, that’s the basketball school, right? Don’t tell that to Stephenson.
Saturday’s upset of the third-ranked Jaguars still stings in Stone Mountain.
Ken Allen threw four touchdown passes and Xavier Johnson returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the football Miller Grove Wolverines, who defeated Stephenson 32-29 in a Region 6-AAAAA game at Panthersville Stadium.
Miller Grove is a state power in basketball. The boys team has won four straight state titles, and the girls team won state last spring to give the school a sweep of Class AAAA.
Meanwhile, the football team has never made the playoffs. The 6-4 finish in 2011 matched the school’s best mark since a 6-4 finish in 2009 under coach Jasper Jewell.
But Jewell, who started Miller Grove’s football program in 2005, resigned in the summer before before the 2010 opener to take a job in the athletics department of Atlanta Public Schools.
It took nearly seven weeks for the school to settle on Damien Wimes, defensive coordinator at Southwest DeKalb, as the replacement – just days before the opening game.
‘’I knew if I could get through that first year, we could be successful here,’’ Wimes said. “The seniors weren’t buying in, and I could understand why. That first year we started eight sophomores and a freshman. Then [in 2011] we brought in my staff. You just have to go off faith and make it happen.’’
Not surprisingly, Miller Grove slumped to 3-7. In the next off-season, Wimes, 39, hired an offensive coordinator (Lance Davenport) and defensive coordinator (Quinton Burrell), with whom he had coached at Southwest DeKalb, Wimes’ alma mater. The ‘11 team got to 6-4.
The 2012 team lost its second game to Mays 34-7 and didn’t figure to threaten Stephenson despite a 5-1 record going in.
Stephenson led 21-6 late in the first half with Miller Grove’s only points coming on a kickoff return by Xavier Johnson. Quarterback Ken Allen threw four touchdown passes to lead the comeback, one a 30-yarder to Jonquavious McBride on the final play of the first half to cut the lead to 21-12.
Stephenson took its final lead, 29-26, by returning a kickoff for a touchdown with 10:56 left. But Miller Grove drove 85 yards for the winning score, a 22-yard TD pass from Allen to Xavier Hopkins midway in the quarter. Allen’s other touchdown passes went to Chris Berry and Hopkins.
Miller Grove ran out the final four minutes of the game.
The outcome caused a three-way tie among Stephenson, Tucker and Miller Grove at 5-1 in Region 6 behind 6-0 M.L. King.
Stephenson had just come off a 13-6 victory over 2011 Class AAAAA champion Tucker.
“It’s probably the biggest win in school history,’’ Wimes said. ‘’I knew we had a chance at it because we had the off week and got everybody healthy, and they’d played Tucker and got an emotional win. We’re dealing with teenagers. We felt if we could keep it close through the first half and match their intensity, we could do it. I really think we’ve got a chance to beat Tucker, too.’’
On Friday, Miller Grove plays Tucker at Adams Stadium while Stephenson plays M.L. King at Hallford Stadium.